Zone 5: Museum of Experience¶
The Museum of Experience is a sui generis immersive environment in which we bring to life many of the remarkable phenomena of the World of Perception, translating them from their arid repositories in textbooks and scientific publications into the realm of vivid experience.
The Museum is populated by numerous exhibits. Some are derived from the illusions familiar from their 2D renderings. Others are decidedly new. Our visitors quickly learn that we think of interactivity as a modality of experience in its own right, destroying powerful two-dimensional illusions but creating new three-dimensional interactive ones.
We think of the many objects presented in the Museum as vehicles for making direct sensory contact with some of the age-old conundrums in the theory of perception, philosophy of the mind, and narratology. Below we list a few examples.
Kinds of Realism¶
“Reality” has many definitions and varieties: direct or naive, empirical, magical, etc. For example, consider the latter - magical - variety. Disregarding the subtle differences between the literary and painterly versions of “magical realism,” we investigate how certain ordinary objects can be given qualities that exceed the technology of our time to the degree that would make them magical.
A prime example of such magical transcendence is an object rendered both physically and virtually. Suppose this object has the shape of a regular wooden box with a hinged lid. A person wearing a head-mounted display and immersed in a virtual environment can grab the physical counterpart of the box with her hands: move it around and think of opening the lid, while the same object is represented in the virtual world in exacting tactile detail. Now the person opens the box and out comes . . .
Please use your imagination to fill the blank and please do not forget to share your thoughts when you come to see that which emerges out of the box, which we fondly call the Horn of Magical Realism.
This example of Concrete Experience presents a googol of possibilities that transcend non-magical varieties of realism, but which do not cease to dwell, paradoxically, in the person’s here-and-now, in a most direct sensory fashion. The reader is invited to visit our Museum and open the Horn of Magical Realism.
Layers of Experience¶
The Horn of Magical Realism is a perfect preparation for reliving - firsthand and in real time - some of the Grand Problems of the philosophy of art.
For example, consider the celebrated duality of pictorial objects. When enjoying a landscape painting executed in correct perspective, say oil on canvas, you are looking at a flat surface but experiencing a nearly-tangible solid space that stretches behind the surface. The experience is of looking through a window. The British philosopher Richard Wollheim famously called this experience “seeing in.”
Painting and cinema are common objects that induce “seeing in.” Objects like the Horn of Magical Realism are yet uncommon, but we suspect that such experiences will pervade our lives in the near future. Beyond the Horn of Magical Realism, the Museum of Experience features a number of entities that look like paintings but behave like solid objects depending on what side you happen to look at. We call such objects Metaphysical Paintings.
The reader is invited to visit the Museum and peer into one or two of the Metaphysical Paintings.
We mentioned at the outset that our scientific culture knows less about the living “inner” experience of space, here and now, than about the abstract “outer” space of physical cosmology. The vast space of cosmology bends and curves in ways that used to provoke disbelief but have long become common knowledge. The space of experience is also flexible, in ways that we are only beginning to understand.
In addition to curving the perceptual space by attention and adaptation (the factors under intense scrutiny in perceptual psychology and the neurosciences), the space and time of experience are colored by the intensity of expectation and the many other dimensions of the narrative. One example is transformations of the experiential distance that is best known as “psychical distance” in aesthetics, introduced by Edward Bullough in 1912.
The experiences of peering through the fog, submerging your face into clear water, or watching your own body transfigured by a curved mirror are amplified manyfold in the immersive place. The reader is invited to visit our Museum and experience the paradoxes of Bullough’s distance. The attractions include walking through the Polarized Fog, leaning into the Bath of Solaris, and watching the mutations of your own body in the Nuclear Mirror.